My Superpower is a regular guest column on the Skiffy and Fanty blog where authors and creators tell us about one weird skill, neat trick, highly specialized cybernetic upgrade, or other superpower they have, and how it helped (or hindered!) their creative process as they built their project. Today we welcome Nick Cole to talk about how the power of Superhuman Food Consumption relates to Soda Pop Soldier.
You know, I have quite a few superpowers. I have the ability to make money disappear almost instantly. The ability to drive people away whether drunk or sober. I have accomplished this in both states of mind but with a much higher rate of success while under the influence of booze. I also have the ability to work out in the gym ceaselessly, six days a week, and still look the same. That’s probably because of my other superpower, the one that plays a big part in my next novel, Soda Pop Soldier. I’m a heroic, almost Batman level, eater. Why Batman? Well first off, I tend to have more of a Bruce Wayne approach toward food. I like high end food, craft menu items, and dining is sort of an adventure for me. Ordinary eating power superheroes, The Hulk and Wolverine types, would probably devastate In-N-Out Burger with twenty 4X4 Quads (the famous Double Double but four times bigger). But the Bruce Wayne eater is going to travel, just like young Bruce Wayne, in search of hidden mysteries and forbidden delicacies like Chef Rob Choi’s Ooey Gooey Fries or wait in line for four hours for a handcrafted pizza at Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix (I live in LA). Or, yes, us Batmans will even travel north into the dark hinterlands of Other California just to wander the gardens of Chef Thomas Keller’s French Laundry. Note: Chef Thomas Keller is the obvious Ra’s al Ghul of any foodie-powered Batman type.
So, I am a high end foodie, as people like to say nowadays. They used to call it Epicurean, just for the record. But whatever. Like Batman/Bruce Wayne, I’ve got two sides to this power. The other side is the Batman down in the cave and out in the night, unseen. In other words, I possess the ability to consume almost anything instantly unnoticed. Or, without you even knowing that I’ve done so. Seriously. People have commented, while sitting at table with me — directly across from me, in fact — that I do this. Often, they won’t even be halfway or even a quarter done with their plate and mine will be clean. The remark that often follows is something similar to “Where’d your food go?” I smile and continue to hold forth on whatever it was I was talking about. In this respect, just like Batman is really some sort of Ninja, so am I, but with food. I usually talk a lot; I’m a conversationalist and I enjoy people and their stories and I’m not short of opinions, so you might think that I’m talking and shoveling food into my mouth like some literary Jabba the Hutt. Not so. I was afraid this might even be the case when people started commenting on how fast I eat. But they didn’t. In fact they said the opposite. They said that they never even saw me eat my food. They merely thought I was talking the whole time and that my food was getting colder and colder. Suffice it to say I won’t tell you how I do it, but I’ve analyzed what happens and it has something to do with misdirection and a few other tricks.
So how did this wonderful super power manifest itself in my writing? Well, I love food and I love to challenge myself to write about it. In fact, it’s not much of a challenge. Before I started writing full time, I was an actor. A starving actor. I used to watch the food network and eat Marconi and Cheese (a parent-supplied bulk purchase from the Costco) and visualize eating the things they were preparing on the shows back when the Food Network used to be about awesome chefs cooking food you’d like to eat. I told myself it was an acting exercise. My first novel, The Old Man and the Wasteland, is about a post-apocalyptic wasteland where there is little food. So, I had to stay away from food for that book and the two sequels collected in The Wasteland Saga. But for Soda Pop Soldier, a fun romp through a future where gamers are pro athletes — think Call of Duty meets Ready Player One — I got to indulge in my passion for food. The novel’s hero, PerfectQuestion, is a gamer with a modified metabolism. So I got to send him on some epic culinary excesses that I had fun writing and that a few readers and even my editor commented made them very hungry. I think the big favorite was the Kobe Burger topped with Stilton Cheese and a drizzled Port reduction sauce served with duck fat fries along the side. Here’s a small passage from the book to illustrate what I mean.
When I come back into the salon, the blonde is setting up my meal on the now cleared chess board. Large starched white napkin, silver silverware, logoed tableware that looks expensive because it is. She turns and offers the bottle of Zin for my inspection.
“Shall I pour?”
I nod. She could have asked me to light myself on fire and I probably would’ve just nodded to that too.
“I’m going to keep my eye on you.” She leans close, suddenly the professional company line gone. “I can tell you have all kinds of appetites.” She tugs at the top button of my shirt and bites her full lip as if trying to stop herself from something she desperately wants to do.
Then I have the dumbest thought ever. Honestly.
“Maybe she really likes guys who like hamburgers.”
When the door slides shut behind her without her giving a backward glance, —she’s fully confident that I’m watching her legs walk themselves out the door, —I throw myself at the burger with seven minutes to go.
Have you ever eaten a burger that was so good, so really good in fact that you had no idea it was the best burger you’d ever eaten until the last bite, in which all the burger-cheese-sauce essence distilled itself down into the last perfect bite of cheeseburger? Unmarred by produce. Have you? Well, every bite of this burger was like that perfect last bite. Not just the last bit. The whole thing. Every bite. It was so good, I almost forgot the Zin and ate the entire thing, groaning to myself each time the heady stilton surrendered to the brash zin. Each flavor draped the grilled medium-rare rare burger with taste and succulence. Oh, and then there were the duck-fat fries.
- Hot. Salty. Crisp. How French fries should be. But better. The best. Ever.
I finish everything just as the three-minute minute warning sounds on my Petey. I remove the Black disc from my trench and boot up the desk, still chasing the flavor of the burger across my mouth. I down the last of my first glass of Zin in one gulp as “Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter” resolves across the desk. The Zin perfects the burger experience as it washes over my taste buds, reminding them just how great the burger had been. I sit down at the desk. Yellow lights flash outside my window as the Skyliner taxis toward the main runway. I hear nothing outside. No engines. No wheels. No chatter. A pulse of steady acceleration and we’re lumbering, then running, then shooting down the runway for takeoff. A moment of lightness, and we’re airborne.
On screen, my Samurai stands before a steel door emblazoned with a raised skull and crossbones.
The main character, PerfectQuestion, is served that burger on a Trade Jet bound for Mega Tokyo while waiting to log onto to an illegal online gaming tournament called The Black. Think Diablo, but bloodier and more messed up. Yeah… I’m hungry for that right now. The burger, that is. There’s even a lot more food in the book, including a SciFi homage to the TV show Seinfeld.
Soda Pop Soldier was my chance to go both Batman and Bruce Wayne all at once with regards to my food-based Super Power. I hope you get a chance to read it, and if you like Call of Duty or Diablo or World of Warcraft or the book Ready Player One, I think this one might be right up your alley. Oh, and if that burger made you hungry, then definitely pick up Soda Pop Soldier.